I'm now thinking that the better question for radio might have been, "What's the digital strategy?" Gordon Borrell's newest report, "Local Web Revenues," is very revealing. Of course, local online advertising is exploding, but it's the hurting newspaper business that is garnering the lion's share of the $8.7 billion that was spent in 2007. While print journalism is hurting, they are finding a way to attract $3.1 billion of this growing piece of revenue pie.
Now you could argue that newspapers have been in more trouble for longer. Necessity being the mother of invention, they have made more significant and serious moves to take a hefty share of the Internet turf. And while they are still struggling mightily as circulation figures continue to erode, they are much farther down the interactive path than any other medium.
Where's radio? Overall, it has attracted only $189 million in '07 - a paltry percentage of the total. As Mark Ramsey notes in a recent blog, there is indeed a lot of headroom. But does radio still see the newspaper business in the same old light where sales managers buy the local print edition, cut out the ads, and implore the salespeople to call on these accounts? That is so 1987.
Where's the overriding strategy for radio that's going to earn a larger piece of this Internet business? While just about every radio company has now hired an "Internet guy" (who in turn has hired an "Internet team"), how is radio going to seriously improve these numbers? And are these methods being communicated to the rank-and-file that make stations go on the local level?
Back in the old days when Ries & Trout's Positioning book was the Holy Grail, stations were encouraged to develop a position, stake it out, and execute it up and down the line. The concept was to make sure that everyone from the morning guy to the salespeople to the receptionist knew what that big umbrella position was all about.
Well, we're in that same position with digital strategies, content development, and revenue generation right now. If you ask local programmers and managers about their company's digital strategy, many would shrug and give you a blank stare. How are their stations supporting web content efforts?
How does video fit in, and who will create it? How are the various departments working together to generate content and revenues? Will there be a local online sales staff that's dedicated to selling a station's online products?
These are all key questions that point to the need for a big-time strategy and a long-term map. While there's always been a "Wild West" quality about the Internet, a plan that everyone understands at all levels is necessary. We're going to cover a lot of these issues at Summit 13, but the heavy lifting needs to happen inside companies, and it needs to happen soon.
No, I'm not going to make new bracelets with new initials. Hopefully, our now-familiar W.T.D.A. green wristbands are having the necessary effect. It's time to develop and articulate a strategic plan now.